Lviv’s Undisputed Knockout King
Lviv boxer Andrey Kotelnik is a local hero in every sense. Since winning the World Light Welterweight title in Cardiff in March 2008 by defeating the heavily fancied Gavin Rees of Great Britain, he has become a Ukrainian hero, receiving honours from President Yushchenko and the acclaim of the nation. This Lviv lad has been based in Germany ever since turning pro following success at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games but he remains a regular visitor to his old stomping ground and is still passionate about life in Lviv.
Andrey, you must a have very heavy schedule with competitions, training and your social life. Do you often find time to visit Lviv?
When I return home from training in Germany it always seems as if there is enough time for everything. You can deal with any practical details in one or two weeks and then you are free to do as you please. Lviv certainly keeps a told hold on me and will not let me go. I am often busy and find my time taken up completely with different things like interviews, meetings, tournaments and socialising. Whenever I am in training before a fight I spend most of my time in Germany, but I try to balance this out with time at home.
Do you get very homesick for Lviv when you are abroad for a long time?
I no longer suffer from nostalgia, although for the first few years I would get very homesick. In those early years I constantly longed to go home. Now I am used to living in Germany and feel at home there. I have got lots of friends in Germany, while my daughter and wife also often come to see me.
Lviv is regarded as Ukraine’s most romantic city. Which place in Lviv do you regard as the most romantic?
I think the most romantic place in Lviv is the central alley running along Svobody Avenue. To be honest I can’t remember the last time I went for a casual stroll through the city centre, but I can still remember in my youth I would always make a point of strolling along Svobody Avenue every time I was in the city. I had my first date with my wife right there close to the Opera House. These days it is not so easy for me to take a stroll, because of the attention I often get from fans wanting photographs or autographs. They are friendly but it is not always very comfortable.
Lviv is a cultural crossroads and a place where empires meet. Has your family always been from Lviv or were your ancestors swept up in the city more recently by the tides of history?
I was born in Lviv. My mother always told me that luck should follow me throughout my life because I was born by candle light (the electricity at the maternity hospital had been cut off). I know that my mother was born close to the Polish border. She was an orphan and a Polish family brought her up. My father is from Russia but for most of his life he has lived in Lviv. I lost most of my relatives when I was around twenty years old, so unfortunately when I became interested in my family tree there was nobody to ask.
Which famous Lviv personalities from the city’s history are your personal favourites?
There are a lot of people who you could say have helped create this city, who have contributed to its history and become local legends. I think the thing most worthy of our veneration is Lviv itself. This is a real European treasure which we should be proud of – certainly I am personally very proud that I was born in this city. In terms of sporting idols, the boxing champ Oscar De La Hoya is my idol. He really is the Golden Boy.
If you compare today’s Lviv with the city you left eight years ago which changes strike you the most?
There have been enormous improvements. The contrast is like day and night. Look at how many buildings are being renovated or are experiencing reconstruction. Then there are the new houses shooting up and the infrastructure is also finally developing. Everything is changing so quickly that we would have had trouble believing it a few years ago.
When you are performing internationally what do you tell people about your home town?
First of all I say that I am from Ukraine, then I tell them about Lviv. The city is well-known regionally, especially among people from the neighbourhood like Poland and Byelorussia. I often invite my friends to visit and see the beauty of the city. When guests arrive they are always shocked and deeply impressed. Lviv is truly worth seeing. Our city is really European.
What are you plans for the future?
I have to defend my title in September. We are currently negotiating a deal to hold the fight here in Lviv. It will be fantastic if we can manage to do it. We should know for sure one way or the other in a few weeks.
Do you have your favourite place in the city?
I have a lot of favourite places in Lviv which mean a lot to me. But if we are talking about bars and restaurants then the Viennese Cafe is my favourite. Whenever I am there I feel cozy and can relax with my friends.